Adam Woodbury, Nigel Hayes

With the focus on Fran McCaffery, we’ve overlooked Wisconsin’s dominant second half vs. Iowa

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No. 4 Wisconsin took down No. 22 Iowa in the first marquee matchup of the Big Ten regular season, erasing an 11-point halftime deficit in the process, and all anyone wants to do is talk about Fran McCaffery’s inability to keep his emotions in check.

And to a point, I get it.

When a coach explodes the way that McCaffery exploded — getting himself ejected fro a game that his team is winning on the road by bumping an official — people are going to pay attention. It doesn’t happen often, and McCaffery’s reputation precedes him.

So, like I said, I understand what the focal point is going to be the Iowa head coach.

But that shouldn’t take away from what Wisconsin did.

I wrote on Sunday night that McCaffery cost his team a win, and I still believe that he did. When you’re playing on the road and you give a team that is as good as Wisconsin is on their home floor four free points, it’s going to hurt. The four technical free throws that Ben Brust made turned into a 10-2 spurt for the Badgers, giving their first lead since it was 3-2. It changed the game, and I think we can all agree to that fact before I remind you that the final score was 75-71. Still don’t think those four free throws hurt?

But it’s also important to note that McCaffery’s ejection didn’t change the momentum of the game. Wisconsin had done that on their own, catching fire in the second half while all-but erasing that 35-24 Hawkeye lead. In fact, McCaffery admitted after the game that he was trying to get the first technical because he wanted to wake his team up. He knew that the Badgers had taken control of the game. He was trying to light a fire underneath his team.

The point I’m trying to make here is that while the spotlight is being shined on McCaffery, it’s forcing us to overlook the fact that Wisconsin had taken control of a game where they were utterly dominated in the first half. They beat a top 25 team and a top four team in the Big Ten despite getting ugly games out of their two best players. Frank Kaminsky hit three threes in the first ten minutes and didn’t score again the rest of the night. Sam Dekker finished 2-for-12 from the floor, hitting a couple of key baskets down the stretch after missing his first 10 shots from the field.

Just how good are the Badgers?

Well, I’m not sure, but they’ve gone 15-0 against a tough schedule this season, and they just notched one of their best wins on a night when they spent 20 minutes playing like they were shaving points.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown:

Niang, Morris lead No. 14 Iowa State past No. 24 Texas

Iowa State forward Georges Niang drives past Texas guard Tevin Mack, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After falling at Texas Tech for the second straight season midweek, No. 14 Iowa State needed to bounce back with No. 24 Texas visiting Hilton Coliseum. The return of Jameel McKay, who was suspended for two games, certainly helped the Cyclones and the play of Georges Niang and Monte Morris was key as well. But the biggest difference on this night was the fact that Iowa State was able to limit the effectiveness of Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor.

 

Taylor scored just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting from the field, and with Morris and Niang scoring 24 points apiece the Cyclones won by the final score of 85-75.

Taylor had multiple opportunities to make plays around the basket thanks to his ability to beat defenders off the bounce, but he struggled to finish. Add in a 0-for-4 night from three, and Texas’ most dangerous offensive option was unable to duplicate his performance in the first meeting between the two teams. In Texas’ 94-91 overtime win over the Cyclones January 12, Taylor scored 28 points and dished out six assists with just one turnover, shooting 11-for-17 from the field.

Four Longhorns finished in double figures, with Tevin Mack and Javan Felix scoring 18 apiece, but with Morris decisively winning the point guard matchup Texas was unable to pick up the win on the road.

For Iowa State the aforementioned tandem of Morris and Niang performed as they did in the first meeting, which should come as no surprise. What helped them, especially when it came to Texas attacking the basket, was the presence of McKay. McKay finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes of action, and to have their best interior defender back on the floor certainly helped the Cyclones on this night.

With their lack of depth Iowa State’s margin for error is small, especially when it comes to foul trouble, injuries and disciplinary reasons.¬†Even with Texas’ size advantage Iowa State outscored them in the paint 48-34, and McKay’s defensive ability factored into that. The Cyclones can put points on the board with the best of them, but at some point they’ll need to string together stops as the games get even bigger.

Iowa State managed to do that down the stretch, with Morris and Niang running the show offensively. And that’s a good formula to be able to rely upon as the season approaches its most important month.